Imagine having a beautiufl poem written solely for you and your partner based on your unique experiences. As part of our Q&A series, we interviewed Gretchen Pratt, Founder and Writer at Something True Wedding Poetry to learn more about her poetry business.
1. What inspired you to start Something True Wedding Poems?
Having a custom poem written for your wedding is actually an ancient tradition and ritual. This type of poem is called an “epithalamium” (or “epithalamion”) and the tradition began in Ancient Greece and has been passed down for centuries. The term “epithalamium” translates to “upon the wedding chamber.” I first discovered this literary tradition 15 years ago when I was in grad school for creative writing; I became obsessed with the wedding poem tradition and did a deep dive into research about it. I was getting married that year and decided to write my own ‘epithalamium’ for our ceremony. That poem served as a kind of cornerstone for the wedding and has only grown in meaning through the years. I began Something True Wedding Poems because I noticed there were few poets writing custom wedding poems in a contemporary literary style. I’ve seen wedding poems that are vague, cringy, and/or not specific to a couple. I avoid any kind of cheesiness, over-sentimentality, sing-songiness, and rhyming. Instead, I aim for authentic, clear images of people, places, and moments. I love wedding rituals and traditions and I think every couple deserves to have their own epithalamion! It celebrates your story and who you are as a couple at this moment in time; no other reading or passage you might choose will be quite as personal and powerful. People instinctively rely on poems to carry the weight of the most important moments of their lives. As Charles Bukowski said, “Poetry is what happens when nothing else can.”
2. Can you describe some of your past experiences related to your new venture?
As I mentioned above, writing my own wedding poem many years ago started me on this path. Over the years many friends and family members have asked me to contribute to their weddings by either reading one of my poems, writing something about how the couple met, or helping them write their toasts. I absolutely loved helping them with the words that would make up their wedding. I’ve also had a lot of experience writing over the past 15 years. I earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Purdue University, and my poems have been published in many of the top literary journals and anthologies in the U.S. such as Best American Poetry, Best New Poets, The Southern Review, Boston Review, and Gettysburg Review. My first book of poems won the Anhinga Prize for Poetry. I have been featured on The Academy of American Poets, Poetry Daily, and in The Best Small Fictions. I’ve also taught writing at the university level since 2004.
3. What can a client expect when working with you? What is your process like?
First, I suggest clients take a look at the sample wedding poems provided on my website to make sure I am a good fit for them. Next, clients would reserve a poem by submitting their payment and the ‘wedding poem questionnaire’ on my website. This questionnaire provides the details I use to compose the poem. I generally ask for at least a month to work on the poem as I go through several drafts; if a couple needs the poem in less than a month I just ask that they contact me about their time frame before we get started. Lastly, once the poem is done, I will email the poem to the client and see if there’s anything they’d like me to revise (one revision is included with their purchase).
4. In what ways do you see couples featuring your poems at their wedding?
This is one of my favorite things to talk about! There are so many fun ways to incorporate a poem into any aspect of your wedding. I like to think of it as something that you can weave through the different stages of your wedding: in invitations, the ceremony, reception, and after your wedding. Traditionally, most people will have the poem read at their ceremony, but here are some ideas for how you can incorporate your wedding poem:
- On your wedding website (this would be a great focal point for your home page!)
- Printed on a scroll backdrop for your ceremony and repurpose to reception
- Read as a voiceover in your wedding video
- Included in your wedding album
- As a framed canvas print to hang in your home
5. Would you mind sharing one of your favorite poems below?
This one is a little shorter than what I would normally do (around 20-30 lines) but probably works best for the space we have here:
You and I can never be strangers again.
If I stand under this tree and you shake
Its branches, other petals would fall.
The tree grows fat around our carving
And the moon is not ash, is not
A blow-away. The stone walls crumble,
Sink, are taken away by vines yet always
Look the same. When I close my eyes,
I cannot imagine your hands but there
Is the grass hill we ran down in the rain
Toward the Hartford skyline. Listen,
There are atmospheres thick as jewels
We will have to swim up through
To glimpse this kindling.
6. Do you mind sharing your pricing?
At the moment I have two options (Custom Wedding Poem or Custom Elopement Poem), both priced at $248. I am in the process of creating two more offerings – an “After Wedding Poem” (written about the actual wedding day), and a Vow Renewal Poem.
7. What’s the best way for people to get in touch with you?
People can contact me via my website (somethingtruepoems.com), Instagram (@somethingtruepoems), or by email (Gretchen@somethingtruepoems.com).
8. What are three things all couples should consider when hiring a professional poet?
1. Make sure you see some sample poems to make sure they’re a good fit for what you’re looking for (also Google to see some of their non-wedding related writing).
2. Don’t hold back on details you provide in your questionnaire – oftentimes it’s the seemingly insignificant details that are the most powerful moments in the poem!
3. If there’s something you’re not happy with in the final draft, don’t hesitate to speak up – my main goal is to create a literary heirloom that you are completely happy with, and revision is all part of the process.